Shiro, Kuro

~ 30 Forbidden, Joshua x Rhyme ~

Disclaimer: I own nothing

A/N: I CANNOT believe how LATE this chapter is! I am SOOOO sorry guys! I honestly have been trying to find time to write this for weeks, but when I have the time, I don't have the inspiration, and when I have the inspiration…I'm five minutes late to class trekking halfway across campus. Grr! Anyway, there's just two chapters left after this, the finale and the epilogue! No matter how long it takes me to do it, I will not give up!

Theme 03: Love

Rhyme stood in front of the door to Joshua's house, Beat glowering over her shoulder. His arms were folded and he didn't seem too happy about the whole situation, which made Rhyme wonder why he insisted on coming along in the first place. Her fingers unwound themselves from around the hem of her shirt, slowly going up to press on the doorbell.

The door opened, but it wasn't done by Nori or any of the other servants of the house she recognized. Masayoshi Kiryu stood behind the door, dressed in his usual suit. He looked tired, but then again, who wouldn't be after yesterday? And since the whole world had forgotten that he and Joshua had died, both of them still had a lot of work to do. He looked over the two of them, his eyes landing on Rhyme.

"Bito-san…" he murmured quietly.

"…Kiryu-san…" said Rhyme nodding. She couldn't look him in the eye. Even after saving him, she couldn't stop thinking about what he had last told her. "…Good morning. Is Joshua here?"

"He's in the study," said Masayoshi, stepping aside. "You know the way. But Bito-san?"

"…Yes?" asked Rhyme, halfway through the door.

"Can I steal your time for just a moment?" asked Masayoshi.

Rhyme swallowed, feeling a little nervous. "…Sure," she said. "Um…Beat…is that okay?"

"Yo, whatever," said Beat, scratching his head. "I gotta bone to pick with Prissy anyways."

Rhyme grimaced. "Don't do anything…drastic," she said, as Beat began walking down the hall.

"Yeah, yeah, relax," said Beat, waving his hand around in the air. "I ain't gonna hurt him."

As he walked away, Rhyme sincerely hoped she didn't just hear her brother say 'much' at the end of that sentence. Masayoshi reached around her and placed his hand on the door, pushing it shut. The door closed with a click, and Rhyme had to try hard not to jump as she turned towards him.

"Bito-san…" said Masayoshi, his face grave. He looked even older now than he had before he died…something that Rhyme wasn't sure was possible. He sighed. "…I believe I owe you an apology."

Rhyme blinked. That had not been what she was expecting. But Masayoshi seemed generally sincere. His eyes were fixed on hers, his posture rigid. Even though his face seemed smooth, she could see the traces of swallowed pride in the way he was frowning at her, and his shoulders were tense. It had taken a lot for Masayoshi Kiryu to come out and say he was sorry. In a sense, he was about as proud as Joshua was.

"…I was…unfair," continued Masayoshi.

Rhyme took a deep breath. "…It's not your fault…" she said. "You were just looking out for Joshua. And you didn't know about…" She waved her hand in the air. "…all this."

"Even so," said Masayoshi. "…I feel like I should have given you the benefit of the doubt, Bito-san."

The benefit of the doubt. Isn't that what she had been saying to herself ever since the issue of her and Joshua first came up? She looked up at Masayoshi now, saw some of the pain in his face, hidden behind his eyes, and realized that even though she had been angry with him back then…she couldn't fault him for that. For what he had said and done.

"…It's alright," she said, smiling up at him. "Let's just start over. Is that okay?"

Masayoshi stared down at her for a few moments as if considering something. Then, he took a deep breath, and for a moment almost seemed to deflate. He took a few steps over the window, looking out onto the grounds and past the gates at the city of Shibuya. "…I was in love with her," he said after a while, his fingers resting lightly on the windowsill.

Rhyme stared at Masayoshi for a moment, her eyes widening in understanding as everything seemed to click. "…Joshua's mother?" he asked.

He nodded. "Aya," he said, still not looking at her. "…I thought she felt the same. But it was a lie. I realized it shortly after we married. She was only interested in what I could give her. When Joshua was growing up and he started claiming—." Masayoshi shook his head. "—started seeing things…Aya couldn't handle it. It wasn't worth it. She made me pay her off so that she wouldn't fight for custody, not that I thought she would anyway."

"…So you did…" began Rhyme, remembering something Joshua had mentioned in the past. Thinking that he drove his mother away…

"I did…" said Masayoshi. He turned away, glancing down the hallway where Joshua's study was located. "…I know I haven't exactly been father of the year," he said. "…But make no mistake, Bito-san. I love my son."

Rhyme hesitated. Felt for a moment that she needed to say something, because Masayoshi seemed so lost standing there, buried in the past and what he hadn't been able to change. She reached out, putting her hand slowly on his arm. He stiffened, turning towards her.

"…It's not too late yet," she said. "…He cares about you too…even though he won't admit it. I saw him after you died. Maybe now that the two of you understand each other a little…you can build on that."

Masayoshi's eyes widened for a moment. Then he looked at her, nodding quietly.

"I hope you're right," he said with a sigh. "I hope you're right. Still…we all have to start somewhere."

"Mm-hmm!" said Rhyme, smiling and nodding.

XxXxX

It felt almost odd to sit in his study again, the map spread out on the coffee table in front of him. He had found it sandwiched between two books and folded up neatly while it awaited his return. Rhyme's careful handiwork, no doubt. He tucked a strand of hair behind his ear, taking a sip of the tea that had been laid out on the table beside him as he traced the map with one finger. What felt even odder was the fact that his father knew exactly what he was doing.

When he told Mr. H that he intended to find a solution to his double life soon, this wasn't quite what he had in mind. Although he supposed having his father know his secret made it…easier…he wasn't quite sure what would happen now that the older Kiryu knew so much about him.

But that could be saved for another day. At the moment, there was still Sadao to defeat. He was probably prowling around outside the edges of Shibuya right now, looking for an opening or a weak spot he could take advantage of.

The door to the study opened. Joshua looked up sharply, expecting Rhyme.

He raised an eyebrow.

Not…quite.

Daisukenojo Bito stood in the doorway, one hand pressed against the open door as if it was about to slam shut at any moment and throw him back out into the hallway. Not that it would take much to do that…even if he was bracing himself. A quick flick of the wrist from Joshua, and the door would lock itself and he would be alone with his thoughts.

Rhyme's brother…he reminded himself. He sighed inwardly, leaning back against the sofa and eyeing his cup of tea idly as he allowed his face to slip into his usual bored, smug expression.

…He was probably going to need something a lot stronger than tea.

"Yes, Daisukenojo, how can I help you?" he asked, smirking at Beat.

Beat stared at him for a moment before walking forward, letting the door slam shut behind him. He walked all the way up to the edge of the couch and then stopped, glowering over Joshua like an angry bear. Or, well, in this case, boar, given the state of his clothing.

"I don't like you," said Beat, glaring down at Joshua.

Joshua's smirk widened. "We established that," he said. Really, anyone with eyes could see that Beat didn't like Joshua. The feeling was mutual.

"Lemme finish!" said Beat, raising his hand. "I don't like you. But Rhyme likes you. So until you screw up and she puts your ass out on the street, I'mma gonna put up with you. A'ight?"

Joshua blinked, his smirk fading. Was Beat really offering to bury the hatchet? How long had he been gone exactly? He paused, staring at the older Bito. Beat was glaring down at him, looking angry but sincere…

It wasn't like Beat had the finesse to lie. The question was, did he want to accept it? Was Rhyme worth tolerating someone that he found had about the same mental capacity as a frozen Neanderthal?

"…Alright," he said, nodding once at Beat.

Beat stared at him for a few moments more before extending a hand. "So…we cool?" he asked.

Joshua reached up and clasped hands with Beat, his smirk spreading over his face again. "Sure," he said, giggling slightly. "We're 'cool'."

"Good," said Beat, clasping Joshua's hand in return. There was a pause, and then Beat squeezed tightly, nearly cutting off circulation to Joshua's fingers. Joshua hissed in pain. He thought he could hear the bones in his hand crack in protest as Beat leaned forward.

"But I'm warnin' you, Prissy," he said. "You put one hand on her that ain't where it should be, and you gonna wish she let you stay dead."

Beat released Joshua's hand quickly, stepping back. For a moment, Joshua considered asking Beat exactly where his hands were allowed to be, but he decided that could wait until he could feel sensations in his fingertips again. Dying was a rather tiresome process, after all.

"Got that?" asked Beat, slipping his hands into his pockets and trying his best to look 'tough'.

Joshua was unimpressed. "…Do you really think I'd hurt Rhyme?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

Beat stared at him for a moment as if considering the question. Then, he slowly blinked and shook his head.

"Good," said Joshua, leaning back against the sofa. "Then we have an understanding."

Beat watched him for a few more moments before nodding once, turning around and heading out the door. The moment he was gone, Joshua let out the breath of pain he had been holding, shaking his hand out.

XxXxX

Rhyme let out the breath she was holding when she saw Beat leave the room, placing her hand on the door and letting it swing open. Joshua looked up from where he sat, rubbing one of his hands with the other. She stepped into the room, closing the door lightly behind her and walking over to him. He moved over in the couch so that she could sit down, but he didn't say anything, watching as she sat down next to him.

Rhyme looked at him. There were dark circles under his eyes—she guessed that he hadn't slept at all last night—but he didn't look tired. The map of Shibuya was spread out in front of him, along with a map of Minato. Several sticky notes were stuck to various points of the map, with notes written on them. Joshua seemed in the process of writing another note—there was a date written on the sticky note on top of Tokyo Tower.

He smirked at her as she settled into the seat, leaning back and resting his arm on the backrest of the couch, just around her shoulder.

"You look rested," he commented, looking at her.

"I got some sleep tonight," said Rhyme with a smile. "It felt a little weird sleeping at home, but nothing out of the ordinary happened."

"Mm, I bet," said Joshua, his smirk widening. His fingers rested on her shoulder.

Rhyme tilted her head towards him and smiled. "Might have had something to do with the person sitting right outside my window."

Joshua feigned innocence. "Oh?" he asked, his eyes widening just slightly.

"Mm-hmm," said Rhyme. "I woke up to go to the bathroom this morning and saw a shadow sitting in the tree…staring at his phone."

"Well, I wonder who that might have been," said Joshua, still smirking as he looked away from her.

"Mm, so do I," said Rhyme, grinning. She leaned back into her seat, into his hold. It felt comfortable like this, and safe. The words she had been meaning to tell him since she got back were on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn't seem to find her voice.

"How did it go this morning?" he asked. "I hope you didn't mind being sent out on short notice, but…" He smiled briefly. "Good help is hard to find." His fingers played with the ends of her blond hair.

"I don't mind," said Rhyme. "I didn't find anything weird. Um…the Minato-Shibuya border felt a bit odd to me…but I called Uzuki over and she didn't feel anything. Yuichi-san said it's because I still have part of Reida's powers…Anyway, I didn't see anything about Sadao."

"Right," said Joshua, a frown on his face. His fingers wove themselves through the ends of her hair as he turned towards her, his eyes serious. "About that, Rhyme…" he began. "…After Sadao is stopped, what are you planning to do?" He paused, his fingers falling from her hair to rest on her shoulder again. "You could become Composer of Minato if you wanted to be."

Rhyme shook her head. "I don't want to be," she said. "Yuichi won't take it, I don't know why—he says people like him aren't allowed to—but he says there are some Reapers in Minato that he can trust with it. I'm just holding it temporarily."

Joshua stared at her for a few moments, as if to see for himself if she was serious. Then, he let out the breath he was holding, some of the tension seeming to leave his back and his shoulders. He looked relieved for a moment, before the smirk appeared on his face again. "How much do you know about Yuichi?" he asked.

Rhyme shook her head. "Not much," she said. "He was going to tell me something today, some secret that only Composers know, but I told him not to. I said it was only temporary, and I didn't want him to get in trouble." When Joshua raised an eyebrow, Rhyme smiled. "…I kinda…got the feeling that there's more to Mr. H and him than they say there is."

Joshua blinked at her. "Has anyone ever told you you're surprisingly perceptive, Rhyme?"

Rhyme smiled. "Actually, no," she said.

"Let me be the first," said Joshua, smirking again. "Especially since you managed to piece together that mess I left behind."

"I remembered the chess game," said Rhyme. "That's all, really."

He leaned forward and kissed the tip of her nose, his fingers playing with her hair again. "You don't give yourself enough credit," he said. His hand went up, fingers tracing the line of her beanie. He frowned as they brushed against the clear pin that was pinned there.

"What's this?" he asked.

"…Harmonizer pin," said Rhyme. "Mr. H gave it to me when I went after you. He thought we could use it."

"Hmm…the two of us using that," said Joshua, his fingers brushing lightly against the pin. "We just might break the universe, Rhyme dear."

"Only if we have to," said Rhyme with a giggle. "But it might be useful, going up against Sadao."

Joshua frowned, lowering his hand and pulling away from her. "…About that," he said. "I think we need to have a talk."

"What?" asked Rhyme, moving back a little bit so that she could see him clearly.

"Sadao," said Joshua. "…I think it's best if you…sat this one out."

"What?" repeated Rhyme, "But we're partners!"

"I can handle Sadao on my own," said Joshua. "…You risked a lot coming to get me. I'd…rather you didn't take any more risks like that."

"You can't handle Sadao," said Rhyme. "He still has the powers from Shinjuku and Chiyoda! That's three UGs in all! Joshua—!"

He cut her off, his hand covering her mouth. "Mr. H, Yuichi, and I should be enough to take him."

Rhyme shrank away from his hand. "What if he uses his Noise Form?" she asked. "Then you'll have to fight him on your own! Or what if he brings help? Takako's still with him."

"He'll want to get back at you for erasing Reida, Rhyme," said Joshua, his expression serious as he stood back. "I want you to stay in the River until it's all over."

"If you lose, we're all dead anyway," said Rhyme. Her mouth felt dry. She thought she was shaking. Joshua couldn't go alone this time. She couldn't lose him again. "Joshua, please don't do this."

He paused for a moment, staring at her. Then, he sighed and moved away, standing up and heading towards the door. "Kariya and Uzuki have instructions to take you to the River if Sadao shows up," he said.

Rhyme swallowed, her fingers closing around the edge of her seat as she turned towards him.

"…I love you," she said quietly.

He stopped in his tracks, his head half-turning towards her. She stood up, facing him.

"I love you," she said, more confidently this time. "…And I don't want to lose you again, so…please. Let me help. I can do this. Just don't…don't go on your own, Joshua. Please…"

She trailed off, looking away. Her confidence disappeared in an instant, and she felt like she wanted to crawl into a hole and hide. She heard him turn towards her, heard him take a step forward.

His hand rested on her shoulder, making her look up. He wasn't smirking. Instead, he had a resigned look on his face.

"…You'll be the death of me one of these days," he said, sighing theatrically and giving her a tired smile. "Alright," he said.

"Joshua…" she began.

His smile turned into a smirk as he leaned forward, kissing her. Rhyme kissed him back, her arms going around him. His hands threaded through her hair. He pulled back slightly from the kiss, his face still near hers as he looked her in the eye. "For what it's worth," he said, still smirking. "I love you too." He leaned in, kissing her again. Her world faded away, until he was the only one in it.

When he pulled away, he was holding her beanie in his right hand. She hadn't even noticed that he had taken it off her head. He held it up, smirking as he studied it.

"Rhyme," he said, teasingly. "Has anyone ever told you that you needed to wear more feminine clothes?"

Rhyme tilted her head innocently. "But Joshua," she said. "Won't people think it's weird if I start wearing your clothes?"

Joshua blinked at her. Then, he reached out, lightly hitting her in the arm with the beanie. Rhyme jumped back, bursting into laughter.

Review Responses:

Divine Wolfe – I definitely intend to keep writing stories. Thank you for the review. It really means a lot to me. I'm sorry that this chapter came out so late. I hope the next two chapters will come out quicker. Thank you so much for your support, and I hope you like this one!

The Dani-Chan Replika 2.06 – Next chapter won't be so fluffy, but that's why we have an epilogue! Thanks for the review, and don't worry, I think the next story I write in this continuity won't have such a heavy plot (now that we have had this one to get them together).

iandin123 – Haha, can't you just see that going through Reida's head when Rhyme plays that card? And I'm soooo sorry about the absolute inexcusable lateness of this chapter! Honestly, I went maybe one week without writing anything at all *headdesk*. Still, despite that, I hope it turned out alright!

Vixen's Shadow – Glad all of you liked it, even if it was different parts of it! Thanks for the review, and I hope you like the last two chapters as they're coming up.

0er0 –I don't know if you'll actually see this, since your review was for Chapter 1, and from the way it sounded, you wouldn't be reading on. I actually recognize some of the things you pointed out in the earlier chapters, and I don't really have an excuse for them beyond the fact that, well, this is fanfiction. There's a reason it exists. Anyway, thanks for the review, and don't worry about it. I could use the constructive criticism once in a while.

WaterAngel-Alyssa – Yeah, she was, a little bit. But she did get it back in the end! Thank you for the review, and I'm so glad you like it!

AntiSora – I hope this chapter answers those questions about Rhyme and Reida. I tried to make it a point to have them talk about it for just a bit (time is short, and I need to get as many questions answered as possible since the finale and epilogue won't have much time for Q&A, lol). Thank you for the review, and I'm glad you like it! I really appreciate the support, especially for this late chapter!

Randian Warrior 501 – Yep, just a couple more chapters to go! Thanks so much for the review! It's really appreciated!

The Legendaerie LT – Your review didn't show up until after I uploaded the chapter. was being stupid. *kicks it* Grr…Anyway, thanks for the reviews! Both of them! And yeah, I'm sorry that chapter was so rushed. I was trying to get it out in the middle of college and stuff. I hope this chapter is better (since it took so much longer to make). *sweatdrop*

Daughter-of-Light13 – Wow, thanks for the long review! I'm really glad you like it! As for the OOCing, yeah, I started writing this story a year ago, and I realize that some of the parts in it might be a little OOC. I'm thinking that once it's all over, if I have time, I intend to go back over it and fix some of that. In the meantime, though, I'm just focusing on finishing the story. Anyway, thanks, and I'm glad you like it! I always liked Joshua and Rhyme as a pairing because, like you said, they balance each other out pretty well. It's actually why I chose the title Shiro, Kuro. Black and white.

As for the themes, I started doing this for a Livejournal challenge (that I'm no longer involved in, XD) The themes are listed there.

Notes:

None in this chapter~